A new patient was always a big deal at the Academy. Dorian had a feeling no one was going to be sleeping that night after Wylie Doe’s flashy entrance. With the shifters howling up a storm from gaining a new pack mate, and Master Whiteheart losing his cool and almost slugging that cop, he was pretty sure they were all going to be up talking the night away. That was, once the shifters got the damn deer carcass out of the hall.

Even though Dorian was a pure magic user with no shifter blood in him, he still struggled with bloodlust. It wasn’t as uncommon as some would think, at least in the Black family. There was something in their family history. It was demonic, but his parents would never admit it. Either way, the deer was making things really uncomfortable, especially now the shifters were bitching over it. Leo, of course, was at the center of the problem.

“Shit man, you didn’t have to actually try and eat it all, Leo.” Fox glared at the large shifter who was possessively crouched over what was left of the deer.

Leo with his dark hair, gold eyes, and tanned skin, curled his lips back in a defiant snarl. The lion shifter had an attitude problem, plain and simple. The hulking slab of aggressive muscle had staked his claim to his territory the instant he scented the new shifter. Dorian couldn’t blame him. The new guy didn’t have Leo’s mass or extreme muscle, and was restrained on the floor the majority of the time he was there, but Dorian had seen enough shifters come through the Academy to know. Wylie was something. Something dangerous. Something powerful. Interesting.

Really fucking hot.

“Dorian, leash him or something.” Fox’s eyes went big and puppy dog when they fixed on him. Brat. Dorian turned from his study of the hall where Michael had disappeared with the new kid over his shoulder. He supposed he could go for a smoke.

“Leo, you’re just going to make yourself sick,” Dorian pointed out as he stepped up next to Fox. “We all ate tonight. You really don’t need to add an entire deer on top of dinner.”

Leo huffed loudly. He stood and towered over everyone in the room. He was taller and more bulked than Michael, with a default of angry. “What the fuck do you care, Black? You my mother now?”

Nearly a foot shorter than the powerful lion shifter and much slimmer, Dorian smirked and pulled the cigarette case from his back pocket. “I’m worried for you if you’re confusing me for your mom. Last I saw Mrs. Princer, her chest was out to here.” He held his hand out so no one was confused about how big her breasts were.

Fox’s eyes widened and he jumped back. “Dorian, are you fucked in the head? You can’t just—”

“Shut it, Rafael. You asked for help; this is how I help.” He glanced briefly at the fox shifter. Dorian walked to the outside doors and waved the growling Leo to follow. “Come on, you damn pussycat.”

Leo stomped after with a scowl twisted on his face. Fox scrambled back from the hulking shifter’s swinging arms. “Dick.”

Dorian lit up while waiting in the shadows of one of the pillars. The lights from the cruisers were long gone, the autumn air cool, the night dark. Leo stepped up nearly silent. His large hand wrenched the slender sorcerer around to slam him against the pillar.

“You’re a cocky son of a bitch, Dorian.” Leo snarled. He plucked the cigarette from his long fingers and took a drag. He released Dorian’s shoulder but refused to step too far away.

“Actually, an ape, right? Since I’m not a shifter.” Dorian’s hazel eyes tracked him while he pulled another cigarette from his case and lit it with his finger. “So what is he? Another lion? I can’t imagine you’d get this worked up over much else.”

His eyes narrowed, Leo took another pull on the quickly diminishing stick. “Looking for my replacement?”

Dorian combed through his dark hair. His fingertips glowed red in the dark. He had an odd relationship with Leo and lately it seemed the shifter was perceiving things inaccurately. He remained quiet while he took a slow drag. Leo stared blatantly at his mouth and refused to look away when Dorian raised his eyebrows. Yeah, he was pretty sure he was confusing shit.

“I help you, Leo. That’s all this is.”

Leo tossed the cigarette to the ground. He pushed Dorian up hard against the pillar and fisted his hair. He pulled and Dorian gasped softly. “I’m stronger than him—I’m a fucking alpha. I know you, Dorian. You want someone strong. Someone who won’t die the instant you lose your shit. Someone who doesn’t care you’re a fucking monster.”

“Shut up.” Dorian snaked his hand around Leo’s muscular arm so he could take a drag from his cigarette. “You’re a dick, Leo.”

“I know, gorgeous. You should let me fuck you some time.” Leo went to kiss him only to freeze when Dorian raised two fingers and held them in front of his face meaningfully.

“You know I don’t like to be touched.”

Eyes wide, Leo tried to jerk away but Dorian pressed lightly to his cheek. “Dorian—oh, fuck.” Leo groaned weakly and fell to his knees. All the strength drained from him with the simple touch of his fingers.

“Not tonight, Leo. Not in the mood.” Dorian stepped around him and finished his cigarette in silence while Leo swayed weakly beside him. It was always too noisy at the Academy. There were so many patients, and everyone full of beast or magic and needed to yell and talk about it all. He missed the quiet.

It wasn’t really Leo’s fault he kept chasing Dorian. Sorcerers, by whatever quirk of nature, were all fucking gorgeous. Magic did something to the body and Dorian was about as powerful as they came. Leo liked the quiet guy for his power more than his looks. He was strong enough to chain the shifter, and when you were worried about losing your shit every day because of being full of testosterone and lion instincts, that was a damn appealing trait. Leo never worried about hurting him because Dorian easily put him in his place.

Leo might be relieved to know he could stop him if he went crazy, but Dorian couldn’t truly say he could be prevented from killing Leo if he lost his own control.

One death was enough for him. No more wanting. People were too fragile, even the shifters, and Dorian couldn’t control himself when he was touched.

He disappeared his cigarette between his fingers. Dorian gave Leo a companionable pat on his broad shoulder before he turned back to the building. The lights inside were warm and brilliant in contrast to the cool night, and the deer and scent of blood were finally gone.

Leo would be fine in ten, mellow and likely buzzed. He was just having trouble with the new kid—stupid territorial shit the bigger shifters couldn’t turn off. Alphas. It was a total pain in the ass way to live. Dorian had a hard enough time keeping his energy in check. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to have a whole other brain in his head. One that told him to act like a fucking animal all the time.

No, he might have gotten the raw end with too much power but at least he wasn’t born a shifter.

Leo felt Dorian leave. He struggled but was still unable to move. Fuck, there was nothing hotter than Dorian Black knocking him down with a simple touch. No matter how much Leo kept trying to prove he was good enough for something more, Dorian never seemed interested. Leo was not a subtle guy and he wasn’t stupid. It still didn’t mean he was just going to let some pretty-boy dragon shifter encroach on his territory and catch Dorian’s eye.

He could flex his fingers now, his fists followed as he pushed himself to his feet. He only swayed a little. If Dorian was actually angry, it would have been a lot worse. But Dorian never got angry. People died when the beautiful sorcerer got angry.

Leo growled. The low sound rumbled through his chest as he caught a whiff of Wylie’s strange reptilian scent on the breeze.

That Wylie guy might think he was tough shit by coming in with cops and cuffs and covered in human blood, but Leo was a goddamn terror—a king among monsters. He’d make sure the dragon knew he was in charge. Dorian was his, the shifters were his, and the Academy was his. If Wylie didn’t bend to him, he’d just have to fucking break him.

“Are they ever going to shut up?” Vincent asked, his tone a dull drawl as he stared up at the ceiling from his bed. The shifters were still awake and laughing it up in the large lounge connecting all the dorms.

“They got themselves a friend. Everything’s a party to them.” Dorian’s studying was done and class was usually light the day after a new arrival. The instructors knew how they got riled up. Vincent had only been there a couple months and didn’t know it all just yet. He was a pure magic user like Dorian and came from old blood. He made for a boring roommate but at least he was usually quiet.

“I heard he’s a dragon.”

Dorian snorted. “I heard he murdered a classroom full of students. Who the fuck knows.”

“He’s got the fucked-up eyes. He could be a dragon.” Vincent glanced his way. His gray eyes gleamed in the dim light. “Do you know what I could do with a dragon? The kind of magic I could raise up? Hell, I bet just one of his pretty ice-blue eyes could keep me charged for ten years straight.”

Vincent was really old blood. Dorian’s parents had modernized a bit, but Vincent talked just like Dorian’s fucked-up grandfather. “Shifters aren’t fucking pets, Frost, they’re people. Living, breathing, thinking, feeling people. I’m sure the guy’s not interested in giving you his eye.”

Vincent shrugged dismissively. “With the right spell, he’d give me anything I want. If I ask nice enough, let him touch me a bit, I might not even need a spell.”

“You’re fucked in the head.” He was also probably right. Vincent was stunning; his waist-length hair was so black it was nearly blue, and his skin was so pale he looked like he was glowing half the time. But the German had an ugly mouth on him and most people couldn’t stand to spend more than five minutes listening to his fucked-up opinions of the world. Dorian wasn’t sure exactly why he was in the Academy. He had a feeling it was less about Vincent’s power being out of control and more the fact people wanted to beat the shit out of him left and right. Just a guess.

“You play with that lion all the time. What do you care what I do with the new dragon?”

Dorian didn’t play with Leo. He helped him keep his control so he didn’t have to wear a null-collar twenty-four seven. That Vincent couldn’t see the difference was telling of something damn wrong in his head. “I didn’t say I cared,” Dorian answered coolly. “I said you’re fucked-up. Talking about dismembering a guy you just met for a power boost is pretty messed up.”

That gave Vincent pause. Maybe he was just a sociopath. He wouldn’t be the first sorcerer who was. Fuck, Dorian wondered half the time if he was walking the line. Magic fucked with the head. It made you think that just because you could, it was okay. It wasn’t, it really wasn’t, but he could sure do a lot if he didn’t care about things like morals.

“He has very pretty eyes… Wild. Sexy.”

Dorian blinked when the new guy’s face flashed in his mind’s eye. Wylie Doe looked like some sort of ice elf. Tall, strapping and pale skinned; his eyes were an icy white with dark pinprick pupils. His short, white-blond hair was tinted blue and streaked with fading hair dye. He looked like a predator. Not beastly like Leo. No, a creature with allure, dangerous and deadly, even more so because you couldn’t help but stare at him.

Dorian assumed staring at a predator would make it less dangerous because you saw it, but no. Staring was just that until there was nothing else left. Just him burning in those wild eyes, stock still and unable to move. The shifter would know, would see him frozen and vulnerable and stalk him down. Wylie would be on top of him in an instant while he panted, trapped in his unbreakable stare. He’d move his large hands over him… sink his teeth into his throat, taste his flesh, pull cries and moans from him as he claimed him…

“Shit.” Dorian sat up in his bed with a dark scowl as magic sparked over his skin. Shit. He needed to get it the fuck together.

Vincent turned his head with an eyebrow raised in bland amusement. “Never seen you do that before.”

Dorian ignored him. He focused on his breathing and channeled his thoughts into some sort of order that didn’t involve extremely sexy-ass shifters trying to mate with him.

“You’re not going to explode or some shit, are you?” Vincent sat up as well and watched as Dorian tried to meditate his power back. “I really don’t feel like dying if you blow up.”

Dorian laughed, the sound bitter and angry. “Listen, you can interrupt me or you can shut the fuck up so I can concentrate. Only one is going to keep me from losing my shit.”

Vincent looked like he was going to say something more like the arrogant ass he was, only to close his mouth when someone rapped sharply on the door.

“What!” Dorian snapped. He crushed his hands together as another wave of magic shot fire over him. It was no one’s fault but his own, but he still really wished everyone would stop interrupting.

Michael pushed the door open and hit the lights. He took one look at Dorian sparking like a firework and waved Vincent to the door. Thank fuck.

Vincent huffed in annoyance. He reluctantly got out of bed and left. Yeah, Dorian felt like a jerk for keeping the guy from sleep but Vincent just didn’t know enough to shut up. God, he missed the quiet. Why couldn’t people just exist and not talk all the fucking time? It wasn’t like they ever said anything important.

By the time Michael returned, Dorian was nearly under control. Only the smallest of sparks traced over him in random bursts. Michael leaned on the door and waited until he was done. He waited until Dorian could look up and not yell, or throw something, or just break apart into tears.

The Academy masters were the best. His parents hired help after his accident three years ago in the hopes to keep Dorian home with them and his little sister. He had gone through four private masters, and had almost killed the last one before they finally relented and sent him to the Academy. He hadn’t wanted to go at the time. Now he didn’t know if he ever wanted to leave.

“Do you want a null-collar?” Michael held the device up. He already knew the answer because he was there with a collar less than a minute after Dorian started sparking. At his nod, Michael crossed the distance and helped to clasp the metal around his neck. It was a cocoon of fog on his magic once the collar clicked in place. Dorian’s power flat lined immediately and no longer lapped at his core in angry, frantic waves.

Too powerful. He used to laugh at such a ludicrous concept. Vincent still did. Dorian was only flesh and blood, and magic was something so much more. One day he woke up more magic than person. That was when it all went to shit for him. While Dorian’s peers would spend a lifetime trying to gain more and more power to silence the crazed voice whispering inside it would make them complete, he already knew the truth. Magic was a disease, a cancer which could only feed off of certain bodies. When it did it hollowed away from the inside out until there was nothing more than a husk left.

Why else would sorcerers and sorceresses be so beautiful? Magic took over every aspect of them from appearance to voice. It imbued grace, agility, charisma and even intelligence and unmatchable will. When his power took over, Dorian felt like nothing more than a puppet, some sort of doll made flesh with foreign energy bubbling inside him. And when the null-collar was on he felt so ordinary, so incomplete and dreary and disconnected from the world. Without his magic, he wasn’t whole, just that unliving doll.

He spent most of his life in halfway existences where he tried to balance between those two extremes. One was life in the null-collar; the other was him sparking out of control. It was exhausting and disheartening to know he would never have a steady state of being. He would always just be a moment in between before it went bad again.

“What do you want to do?” Michael rested his hands on the foot of Dorian’s bed. “I have a feeling they’re going to be loud the entire night. I can set up a sound dampener but that won’t quiet down Vincent if he’s in a mood.”

“Just cast me to sleep.” Dorian slid back into bed. The metal collar was an unyielding yet comforting weight on his throat. With the collar, he could sleep and dream safely, and that was what he wanted. To dream; to feel emotion and not trigger his magic into overload. Dorian didn’t get angry anymore. He didn’t get scared, sad, upset. He wasn’t allowed if he wanted to survive his fucked-up imbalance. But with the collar on, he could indulge, if just for a few hours. It was the best he got.

The collar always came off. Depending on it would only invalidate the last year of grueling work spent learning mastery over his power. But for the night, it was okay if Dorian dreamed, even of those crazy, wild eyes.

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